General symptoms of lead poisoning are non-specific so can easily be attributed to other factors. Blood and urine tests are used for actual diagnosis of lead poisoning, whilst very high levels over a long period of time can settle in bone and become visible on X-Rays.
The World Health Organisation estimates that lead exposure accounts for 0.6% of global disease.
There is no known safe level of lead in blood but governments have defined levels of particular concern for particular sets of people.
Whilst still a member state of the European Union, the UK is required to implement blood lead level limits that are at least as rigorous as agreed in Directive 98/24/EC Surveillance.
Under the UK Control of Lead At Work (CLAW) regulations, workers involved with lead, or have a blood lead concentration equal or greater than the relevant medical surveillance level are required to have regular checks on their blood lead level. A blood lead level test should be performed before a worker starts working with lead, but must be within 14 working days of commencing such work. Young people and women of reproductive capacity must have checks at least every three months and for any other employee should be every six months but can be reduced to an annual check if on the previous two consecutive occasions showed a blood lead level below 30 µg/dl.
Under UK CLAW Regulations, Atomic Absorption Spectrometry is prescribed for measuring levels of lead in blood and urine.
If you are concerned about lead exposure, speak to your GP or employer.
Lead in Blood Testing
Lead in Blood action and suspension levels under the UK Control of Lead at Work Regulations (CLAW) compared to EU Directive 98/24/EC Surveillance action level:-
|Employee||UK Medical Surveillance Level||EU Health Surveillance Level||UK Action Level||UK Suspension Level||EU Binding Biological Limit|
|Woman of reproductive capacity||20 µg/dl||40 µg/dl||25 µg/dl||30 µg/dl||70 µg/dl|
|Young person||35 µg/dl||40 µg/dl||50 µg/dl|
|Any other employee||50 µg/dl||60 µg/dl|
If a workers blood lead level reaches or exceeds the relevant Action Level, the employer must attempt to determine the reason(s) for the high lead level and seek to improve working practices. If a workers blood lead level reaches or exceeds the relevant Suspension Level, a relevant doctor will be required to certify whether that worker should be suspended from working with lead and the employer must review the risk assessment and preventative measures, taking into account any advice from a relevant doctor or by the Health and Safety Executive. The EU Binding Biological Limit is taken to mean Suspension Level.
Lead in Urine Testing
The UK Control of Lead at Work Regulations (CLAW) also provides Lead in Urine action and suspension levels:-
|Employee||UK Medical Surveillance Level||UK Suspension Level|
|Woman of reproductive capacity||20 µg Pb/g creatinine||25 µg Pb/g creatinine|
|Any other employee||40 µg Pb/g creatinine||110 µg Pb/g creatinine|
Heritage Testing Limited can assist with:-
- Identifying presence of lead and other toxic metals in paint particularly older paint undercoats
- Detection of lead in dust
- Lead abatement – verification that a contractor has not left a building or surrounding area in a contaminated condition after refurbishment works
- Advice on how to manage the risks associated with lead
- Advice on cleaning of lead contaminated sites e.g. following inadvertent sanding of lead paint